From Leaderless Resistance to Streaming Video Strikes: The Evolution of Lone Wolf Terrorism

The publication of our Distinguished Fellow, Prof. Jeffrey Kaplan about the "lone wolf tactic"

When Texas Klansman Louis Beam wrote his seminal screed
“Leaderless Resistance” in The Seditionist in 1992, he also wrote a
lesser-known companion piece advising ‘Patriots’ on how to use a
computer or, failing that, offering instructions on setting up a
telephone bulletin board for tech-challenged adherents. Beam was
tactically prescient, but it took Bill Gates and Windows 95 to make
his lone wolf dream a reality. The transnational radical right adopted
Beam’s strategy by necessity given their inability to form secure
organizational capabilities. This article will follow the evolution of the
right-wing lone wolf from such early avatars as Joseph Paul Franklin
in the 1960s through the social media-driven killings in Christchurch,
New Zealand in 2019. The article will argue that the lone wolf tactic
has not only gone viral for the radical right but, of greater
importance, that the technological, social, and political changes that
have impacted mainstream society in the 21st century has changed
the way the lone wolf tactic is employed and understood by
contemporary lone wolves on the radical right. The article will begin
with two contrasting case studies, Joseph Paul Franklin, who began
it all in the 1960s, and a group of more recent lone wolves, most
notably Anders Breivik and Brenton Tarrant, the latter of whose livestreamed shootings at the Christchurch, New Zealand Mosque, and
his accompanying manifesto, "The Great Replacement” served to
bring the lone wolf tactic into the 21st century. It will then turn to
academic theory on lone wolf terrorism.

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